Food Security in California Takes Important Step Forward
Recently the state of California took another important step towards improving healthy food access for its citizens when Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1321 into law. This law, introduced by Assembly Member Phil Ting, establishes the Nutrition Incentive Matching Grant Program in the Office of Farm to Fork at the California Department of Food and Agriculture into law.
The Nutrition Incentive Matching Grant Program will, once funded, provide revenue for programs like Market Match that increase access to fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables for Californians. PCFMA has been offering Market Match since 2009 and is a proud member of the California Market Match Consortium, a statewide coalition of farmers’ markets who are offering Market Match programs.
The new program created by AB 1321 specifically targets Californians who receive support through the WIC, CalWORKS, CalFresh, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs and promises to help them use their existing benefits more efficiently by incentivizing their purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables. The program will continue to support fresh produce purchases in certified farmers’ markets throughout the state ensuring that these additional fruit and vegetable purchases support California farmers as well as California consumers.
All of us at PCFMA, as well as the farmers and communities who benefit from these programs, thank Assembly Member Ting for his leadership on this issue. And, we thank Governor Brown for his support. We are optimistic that the bipartisan support that was behind the bill will be sustained as the program launches and seeks funding to begin operations.
While we celebrate this good news about Market Match, we are also working to sustain another important nutrition incentive program, the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. PCFMA has been a supporter of these two programs for many years because of their clear benefit for families in need and benefits for local farmers. These two programs provide low income consumers with a book of coupons good for $20 of fresh fruits and vegetables in farmers’ markets. The coupons for seniors have a face value of $2 each which is convenient when shopping at a farmers’ market, but a challenge for a farmer or farmers’ market operator who deposits the check in the bank. The deposit fee charged by banks can be as high as $0.15 per item. For a $2 check that is a fee of 7.5%. These fees are creating a disincentive for farmers and farmers’ markets to support this essential program. We hope to work with our partners throughout the state on this issue over the coming year in the hope of finding a cost-effective solution.
By Allen Moy, Executive Director
Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association